On Thursday, about 5,000 survivors of sexual abuse and assault will embark on a 65-day national walk that will span 10,000 km through 200 districts in 24 States and Union Territories. The Dignity March, which was announced by survivor-focused organisation Rashtriya Garima Abhiyan on Wednesday, will begin at Somaiya Ground in Sion on Thursday at 11.30 a.m. The march will be flagged off by actors Tisca Chopra and Sudha Chandran, activist against acid attacks Laxmi Agarwal, and activist Bhanwari Devi among others.
Apart from sexual abuse and assault survivors, allies and stakeholders will join in the march, which will culminate in New Delhi on February 22, 2019. The objective of the initiative is to end sexual violence against women and children, as well as raise awareness about the plight of the survivors throughout the country.
Aims and objectives
The march was announced by a group of people who had faced some form of sexual assault. While everyone who spoke at the event have revealed their names, The Hindu protects their identity. Among those present were a sexual assault survivor from Rajasthan, a survivor of human trafficking from Maharashtra, another survivor who was sexually abused by the police hailing from the Maharashtra-Madhya Pradesh border, and a tribal woman from the Mandsaur region in Madhya Pradesh, who was forced into the flesh trade when she was 15 years old.
Each of the survivors recounted details of the trauma they have faced, talking about how they felt victimised by society and the government. One of the survivors — on whose legal battle the film Bawandar (2000) is based — said, “I had gone [to Rajasthan] to stop the marriage of a nine-month-old girl as part of a government programme when they gang-raped me. The government should have conducted a fair investigation in my case, but [the police harassed] me. This yatra is being organised so that what happened to me does not happen to any other woman or child. The 5,000 survivors who have joined us for this march will travel through the country to spread the message to stop the stigmatisation of survivors and to support them.”
Speak out, reach out
The march also intends to encourage the creation of a network of survivors, their families and other allies. Another objective is to spark a discourse on the subject and ensure participation in policy making at a local, State and national level along with the implementation of laws and guidelines related to sexual violence.
While making a call for more people to come out and join the march, the organisers presented a 2018 survey titled ‘Speak Out’ that enlisted 15,000 respondents — across different States, ages and professions — regarding sexual violence and harassment. Of the total, 1,150 people revealed they had faced some form of sexual violence, 64% said that the perpetrator was known to them, 28% said the assault happened at their house, and 10% said it happened at the house of somebody they knew.
Additionally, a startling 62% of the respondents said that they did not inform anyone about the incident while the rest did. From the 1,150, 95% said they had never filed an official complaint due to social stigma and lack of support.